Creative Education
2014. Vol.5, No.1, 46-52
Published Online January 2014 in SciRes (
Learning Pharmacology in Mexico: A Survey of the
Use and Views of Pharmacology Textbooks by
Undergraduate Medical Students
Rosa Ventura-Martinez, Rebeca Aguirre-Hernandez,
Jacinto Santiago-Mejia , Claudia Gomez, Rodolfo Rodriguez*
Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, National University of Mexico
Email:,,,, *
Received December 6th, 2013; revised January 6 th, 2014; accepted January 13th, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Rosa Ventura-Martinez et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative
Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all
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al. All Copyright © 2014 are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Background: To date, little is known about the view of medical students towards pharmacology text-
books. This study aimed to investigate the preferences of second-year medical students towards pharma-
cology textbooks, and to identify the factors involved in book selection. Methods: Second-year medical
students of the Medical School at the National University of Mexico (classes of 2010, 2011, and 2012)
were asked to select their preferred textbook for studying pharmacology and preparing for exams from a
list of nine textbooks. They also completed a 19-item questionnaire to identify and evaluate the reasons
for their preferences. Results: A total of 1323 students completed the questionnaire, representing 45.59%
of all medical students enrolled in 2010-2012. The two textbooks most preferred by students were Good-
man & Gilman (25.3%) and Rodriguez et al. (27.3%); preferences for the other books were Harvey &
Champe (13.9%), Rang et al. (13.5%), or Katzung et al. (12.3%), and others (7.6%). The usefulness and
the adequacy of content were deemed equally important by students when choosing a textbook. Conclu-
sions: Goodman & Gilman, a well-known pharmacology textbook, and Rodriguez et al., a small-volume
textbook, were preferred by these second-year medical students; their choices were based on relevant
pharmacological information and adequacy of content.
Keywords: Pharmacology; Learning; Teaching; Textbooks; Medical Schools
Academic success during the first 2 years of medical school
generally depends on the ability of students to cope with a sig-
nificantly more voluminous and demanding course load than
previously experienced (Sawyer et al., 1996). This is true for all
biomedical sciences, particularly pharmacology, a discipline with
ever-increasing information. Basic pharmacology is a funda-
mental course that is usually taught in the second year in most
medical schools, using traditional discipline-based or problem-
based learning curricula. Most medical schools mandate that a
solid foundation i n basic pharmac ology is essent ial to unde rstand
and practice therapy , because dru gs cannot be safe ly or rati onally
administered without a clear unde rstanding of their sit e a nd mode
of action, pharmacokinetics, side effects, interactions, and toxic-
ity. However, learning and retention deficits of pharmacological
information are major pro blems in undergraduate medical educa-
tion, and these deficiencies are recognized worldwide (Ingenito et
al., 1989; Dean et al., 2002; Rodriguez et al., 2002; Ling et al.,
2008). Many studies have shown that many final-year medical
students and new doctors are unde rpre pared for effective and safe
prescribing of drugs (Walley et al., 1994; Garbutt et al., 2005;
Han et al., 2006; Maxwell et al., 2007; Harding et al., 2010), a
view shared by many medical students (Heaton et al., 2008). It
has been suggested that inadequate skill or knowledge of phar-
macology contribute to prescribing faults (i.e., failure to decide
which drug to use and how) and compromising patient safety
(Dean et al., 2002; Harding et al., 2010; Otoom et al., 2006;
Aronson, 2009; Gwee, 2009). Information overload, the prolif-
eration of new drugs, recent curricular reforms, and inadequate
teaching of medical pharmacology are the four main factors that
contribute to the inadequate pharmacological education of medi-
cal students (Ingeni to et al., 1989; Han et a l., 2006; Heaton et al .,
2008; Otoom et al., 2006; Achike et al., 2000).
To overcome these issues, a curriculum with a more selective
content, coupled with a restricted list of drugs (“student formu-
lary”), has been proposed and implemented in many medical
schools (Orme et al., 2002; Maxwell et al., 2003; Rodriguez et
al., 2009; Baker et al., 2011). We consider that the recent pro-
posal of Ross and Maxwell is the most complete and useful ap-
proach for teaching and learning pharmacology in medical
schools (Ross et al., 2012). However, the lack of appropriate
textbook material is a major challenge for students who must
*Corresponding a uthor.
cope with the tradi tional, ove rsized, pharmacology t extbooks tha t
grow larger with each new edi tion (Achike et al., 2000). In addi-
tion, most textbooks treat phar macology as a basic science rather
than a discipline that forms part of a medical curriculum; conse-
quently, the clinical perspective may be lost in the vast quantity
of basic pharmacological information. Most medical students
dislike such textbooks. Faced with the ever-increasing breadth
of pharmacology knowledge that they need to address, students
(and medical educators) are confronted with the problem of
how to extract the key information that is most relevant to their
future clinical education.
To date, little is known about the view of medical students to-
wards pharmacology textbooks. Therefore, the present research
aimed to report on the development, reliability and validity of a
questionnaire to investigate the preferences of second-year
undergraduate medical students towards pharmacology text-
books. In addition to the planned validation studies, we deter-
mined the feasibility of using the same questionnaire to identify
the factors that may influence their decisions when choosing a
pharmacology textbook. The textbooks used to investigate stu-
dents’ view and prefe rences were chosen bec ause all of them are
recommended in our academic program, our medical library
contains many copies of them, and because they vary c onsidera-
bly in terms of the amount of information being presented and the
means of presenting this information. A total of 1323 second-year
medical students of the Medical School at the National Univer-
sity of Mexico (classes of 2010, 2011, and 2012) participated in
this study.
We enrolled 1360 medical students in the second year (448
in the class of 2010, 496 in the class of 2011, and 416 in the
class of 2012) at the National University of Mexico Medical
School, representing 45.59% of the total number of students
(2983). Our school uses a traditi onal discipline-based curriculu m
in which pharmacology is a required course that is taught every
year to approximately 950 undergraduate medical students di-
vided into 32 groups of about 25 - 30 students each. The phar-
macology course is taught in the second year alongside other
discipline-based science courses, but before pathology and
extensive clinical teaching. The course consists of two sessions
lasting 2 h each per week on different weekdays. Although an
active methodology is promoted, most sessions consist of 2 h
lectures that are given by the same group of professors. The
course also includes 30 laboratory sessions (mainly computer
simulations) that last 4 h each. All groups begin and end the
course on the same date.
Textbooks Evaluated
Nine pharmacology textbooks were chosen: “Pharmacology”
(Harvey & Champe, 4th/5th editions, 2008-2011, USA), “Princi-
ples of Pharmacology: The Pathophysiologic Basis of Drug
Therapy” (Golan et al., 2nd/3rd editions, 2007-2011, USA),
“Goodman & Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Thera-
peutics” (Brunton et al., 11th/12th editions, 2006-2011, USA),
“Basic and Clinical Pharmacology” (Katzung et al., 11th/12th
editions, 2009-2011, USA), “Pharmacology” (Rang et al.,
6th/7th editions, 2007-2011, UK), “Levine’s Pharmacology,
Actions and Reactions” (Walsh et al., 7th edition, 2005, UK),
“Velazquez Basic and Clinical Pharmacology” (Lorenzo-Fer-
nandez, 17th/18th editions, 2004-2009, Spain), “Medical Phar-
macology” (Mendoza, 1st edition, 2008, Mexico), and “Phar-
macology and Therapeutics Guide” (Rodriguez et al., 2nd edi-
tion, 2009, Mexico). These textbooks were chosen because they
are listed in our academic program and our medical library
contains many copies of these textbooks (Spanish version).
Development of the Questionnaire
We determined that the questionnaire should focus on the
students’ perceptions of pharmacology textbooks. Therefore,
we developed a questionnaire that included items derived from
informal conversations with and complaints from medical stu-
dents about the pharmacology textbooks they had used through-
out the year.
The initial questionnaire included 20 items that were de-
signed to investigate the students’ textbook preferences and to
gain some insight into the reasons for their preferences, as well
as items designed to evaluate the usefulness and adequacy of
the preferred textbook. In May 2009, we conducted a pilot
study of 416 medical students to evaluate the comprehensibility
and relevance of the questions, and several changes were made
based on their feedback. We also tried to improve the compre-
hensibility and clarity of each item. The questionnaire took <
10 min to complete.
The final version of the questionnaire was two pages long,
and consisted of 20 questions (Table 1). The questionnaire first
asked students to select the pharmacology textbook that they
used during the year to study and prepare for examinations, as
well as how often they used it. Next, the students completed 19
items that explored the reasons for their preference. The stu-
dents were asked to indicate how much they agreed with each
statement using a 5-point Likert scale (1 = never; 2 = some-
times; 3 = frequently; 4 = almost always; 5 = always). To help
the students identify the textbook, we provided them with a
colour page containing ima ges of the pharmacology te xtbooks in
alphabetical orde r. Participation was voluntary and anonymous,
answers were manually reviewed, and data were entered into a
database for statistical analysis.
At the end of the questionnaire, students were asked to state
their overall textbook preferences (encyclopaedic vs. concise)
for studying basic medical sciences. The surveys were con-
ducted in May 2010, 2011, and 2012, coinciding with the end
of each academ ic year.
Ethical statement
All of the participants were informed about the aim of the
study and the content of the questionnaire. The questionnaire
was anonymous and did not request any information that could
reveal the identity of the respondents. The students voluntarily
participated in the survey. They were free to leave any ques-
tions or the whole questionnaire unanswered if they wished to
do so. Studies in which only questionnaires are applied or in-
terviews are made are classified, by the General Health Law for
Health Research of Mexico, as research studies in which the
population is not put at any risk (General Health Law Regula-
tions with regard to Research on the Health Sciences, Mexico).
It also states that in this type of studies, the Ethical Committee
can exempt the researchers from requesting the informed con-
Data Analysis
We calculated percentages to summarize the information of
Table 1.
Questionnaire given to second-year medical students regarding pharmacology textbooks.
INSTRUCTIONS: First, select from the attached page the phar macology textbook that you preferred during the year when preparing for your coursework or
examinat i ons; then, a nswer the following questio ns .
1) How ofte n did you use it ?
2) Does it describe the fundamentals of pharmacology?
3) Does it explain the phar macodynamics and pharmacokinetics of major drugs in a comprehensi ve manner?
4) Does it identify drugs that are more frequently used (prototy pes) in general medicine?
5) Does it describe the physiopathology of major diseases and explain its importance in drug selection?
6) Does it provide detailed descriptions of the pharmacology of drugs as a basis for their clinical use?
7) Does it refer to pharmacological topics that are only useful for second-year medical students?
8) Does it stimulate your interest in the topic and mot i vate you to learn on your own?
9) Does it encourage the integration of pharmacology with other disciplines in the curriculum?
10) Does it stimulate your interest i n more comm on di s eases?
11) Is the material well organized?
12) Does the sequence of themes facilitate comprehension of the entire discipline?
13) Is the information p resented sm oothly and does it help to integrate your k nowledge?
14) Are the contents clear and concise?
15) Was the writing easily understood and did chapter length favour learning?
16) Was it necessary to consult another textbook to achieve your learning objectives?
17) Does it prompt you to consult useful literature i n this field?
18) Does it offer an opportunity for self-evaluation?
19) Would you recomme nd t hi s t extbook to other student s?
20) Does the t extbook cover all of the scheduled topics in the cur ri culum?
nominal and ordinal variables. Exploratory factor analysis (Ta-
bachnick et al., 2007) was applied to each student population
and to the whole sample in order to determine if the correlation
between the questions could be explained by a few latent va-
riables. Additive scales were calculated based on the results of
the factor model. A multinomial logistic regression model
(Hosmer et al., 2000) was fitted to predict the book preferred by
the students using as independent variables the additive scales
and the school class. Statistical analyses were done with R Core
Team 2012 version 2.15.1 (R Core Team) and SPSS for Win-
dows Statistic Package (version 20). A P value of <0.05 was
considered significant.
Summary Statistics
The questionnaire was fully answered by 1323 medical stu-
dents (97.3%); thirty-seven incomplete questionnaires were
excluded from the analysis. In the whole population, the mean
age was 19.3 (range 17 - 41) years; 63.1% were female and
36.9% were male.
About 50% of the 1323 surveyed students preferred the
books by either Goodman & Gilman or Rodriguez et al. (Table
2). Nearly 40% of the students preferred the textbooks by Har-
vey and Champe, Rang et al. or Katzung et al., and less than
10% of the students used another textbook. The percentage of
students that used the book by Katzung et al. increased 7.5%
between the first and the last academic years reported in Table
2. Also, in this time period, the percentage of students that fa-
vored the book by Rodriguez et al. increased 5% while 8.4%
less students chose the book by Goodman & Gilman.
Questionnaire’s Latent Variables
More than 90% of the answers to the 19 items comprising the
second part of the questionnaire were concentrated in just three
categories: “frequently”, “almost always” and “always”. Ques-
tion 16 regarding the need to look up another pharmacology
textbook in order to achieve the study objectives had a different
response pattern and was ignored in subsequent analysis. The
polychoric correlation coefficient (Mislewy, 1986) was used to
measure the association between items and to do an exploratory
factor analysis. The correlation matrices of the three studied
populations were similar to each other. Thus we decided to
work with a single data set that contained information of 1323
students from the three academic years instead of doing a sepa-
rate analysis for each of them.
Based on several criterions (Tabachnick et al., 2007) and
preliminary analyses we decided to extract 4 factors. We ex-
amined the rotated and unrotated solutions, the percentage of
variance explained and the communality values. The model was
re-fitted using weighted least squares and omitting questions 17
and 18 because their communality values were around 0.35.
The factor loadings shown in Table 3 were obtained after ap-
plying a quartimin rotation. This model explained 66% of the
total variance of the sixteen questions. The correlation between
the four extracted factors ranged between 0.56 and 0.74. The
elements of the residual matrix ranged between 0.03 and 0.49.
Cronbach’s alpha was 0.838 for Factor 1, 0.859 for Factor 2,
0.788 for Factor 3 and 0.776 for Factor 4. Factor loadings
greater than 0.31 were considered as significantly different
from zero. We interpreted the factors as follows: Factor 1, per-
tinent pharmacological information; Factor 2, appropriate in-
formation presentation; Factor 3, meaningful medical context;
and Factor 4, adequacy of content.
Characteristics of the Chosen Book
Additive scales were calculated by adding the codes (never =
1, sometimes = 2, frequently = 3, almost always = 4, always =
5) assigned to the categories of the variables that loaded heavily
Table 2.
Number of undergraduate medical students that studied pharmacology in their second year and the percentages of students that preferred each text-
Academic year N
Harvey &
Goodman & Gil-
Katzung et al . Rang et al. Rodriguez et al. Others Total
2009-2010 448 14.5 27.9 8.0 16.3 24.8 8.5 100
2010-2011 476 12.2 27.7 13.7 13.4 27.5 5.5 100
2011-2012 399 15.3 19.5 15.5 10.5 29.8 9.3 100
Overall 1323 13.9 25.3 12.3 13.5 27.3 7.6 100
Table 3.
Factor loading and communalities for the four factors.
Item Factor Communality
F1 F2 F3 F4
Factor 1: Pertinent phar macologic al informati on
3) Does it explain the phar macodynamics and pharmacokinetics
of major dru gs in a comprehensive manner? 0.80 0.110.04 0.13 0.63
2) Does it describe the fundamentals of pha rm a c ology ? 0.73 0.030.03 0.09 0.61
4) Does it identify drugs that are more frequently used (prototy pes) in general medicine? 0.70 0.04 0.050.01 0.58
6) Does it provide detailed descriptions of the pharmacology
of drugs as a ba s is for their clinical use ?
0.68 0.06 0.150.03 0.67
5) Does it describe the physiopathology of major diseases
and explain its importance in drug selection?
0.53 0.28 0.200.14 0.62
Factor 2: Appropriate in f ormation presentation
14) Are the contents clear and concise? 0.04 0.86 0.01 0.00 0.79
13) Is the information p resented sm oothly and does it help to integrate your k nowledge?0.06 0.84 0.03 0.09 0.73
15) Was the writing easily understood and did chapter length favour learning? 0.05 0.68 0.06 0.09 0.67
19) Would you recomme nd t hi s t extbook to other student s? 0.26 0.32 0.13 0.23 0.65
7) Does it refer to pharmacological topics that are only useful for
second-year medical students? 0.30 0.32 0.18 0.12 0.63
Factor 3: Meaningful medical context
9) Does it encourage the integration of pharmacology with other disciplines in the cur-
riculum? 0.010.10 0.85 0.08 0.73
10) Does it stimulate your interest i n more comm on di s eases? 0.00 0.06 0.76 0.01 0.62
8) Does it stimulate your interest in the topic and motivate you to learn on your own? 0.14 0.19 0.53 0.00 0.60
Factor 4: Adequacy of content
12) Does the sequence of themes facilitate comprehension of the entire discipline?0.04 0.13 0.13 0.72 0.76
11) Is the material well organized? 0.14 0.030.01 0.72 0.69
20) Does it cover all of the scheduled topics in the curriculum? 0.15 0.13 0.12 0.42 0.51
The model was fitted usin g the we ighted least squar es m ethod and quartim in rotation. Loading val ues >0.31 w ere c onsidered significant.
on each factor. A multinomial logistic regression model was
fitted to determine if the additive scales and the school class
predicted the book preferred by the students. In this analysis,
the books were classified into four categories: 1, Goodman and
Gilman; 2, Rodriguez et al.; 3, Harvey and Champe, and Rang
et al.; and 4, Katzung et al, and “Others”. Only additive scales
1, 2, and 4 were significantly associated with the student’s book
preferences (Table 4). An increment in the value of the second
additive scale (appropriate information presentation) increased
the odds of preferring any book instead of Goodman and Gil-
man. However, an increment in the first and fourth additive
scales (pertinent pharmacological information and adequacy of
content respectively) reduced the odds of preferring any book
as compared to that written by Goodman and Gilman
Among 2010 students, the odds of preferring the book of
Rodriguez et al. was significantly smaller than the odds of
Goodman and Gilman (P = 0.028). No significant differences
were found between the textbook preferred by cohorts 2011 and
Table 4.
Multinomial logistic regression model fitted to predict the book preferred by the students1.
Book Variable Coefficient Stand.
Error P OR 95% confidence interval
Lower limit Upper limit
Rodriguez et al. Constant 0.51 0.64 0.426
class 20100.46 0.21 0.028 0.63 0.42 0.95
class 20110.29 0.21 0.165 0.75 0.50 1.12
additive scale 10.39 0.04 0.000 0.68 0.63 0.73
additive scale 2 0.46 0.04 0.000 1.59 1.46 1.72
additive scale 40.12 0.06 0.045 0.88 0.78 1.00
Harvey and Champe; Rang et al. Constant 0.46 0.63 0.459
class 20100.09 0.21 0.669 0.92 0.61 1.37
class 20110.21 0.21 0.320 0.81 0.54 1.22
additive scale 10.32 0.04 0.000 0.72 0.67 0.78
additive scale 2 0.44 0.04 0.000 1.55 1.43 1.68
additive scale 40.20 0.06 0.001 0.82 0.73 0.92
Katzung et al.;
Constant 1.98 0.62 0.001
class 20100.72 0.22 0.001 0.48 0.32 0.74
class 20110.52 0.21 0.014 0.59 0.39 0.90
additive scale 10.27 0.04 0.000 0.76 0.71 0.83
additive scale 2 0.28 0.04 0.000 1.32 1.22 1.43
additive scale 40.13 0.06 0.028 0.88 0.78 0.99
1The reference category for the dependent variable was the book by Goodman and Gilman; therefore, its odds ratios were 1. The reference category for the school class w as
2012. The additive scales are interpreted as follows: 1) pertinent pharmacological information, 2) appropriate information presentation, 4) adequacy of content. OR means
odds ratio.
2012 (P = 0.165), Table 4. The odds of choosing either Harvey
and Champe or Rang et al instead of Goodman and Gilman did
not depend on the class to which the students belonged (P =
0.669 for class 2010 against 2012 and P = 0.320 for class 2011
compared to 2012). Significant differences were found between
class 2012 and the other two with regard to the odds of choos-
ing between Katzung et al or the “Others” and Goodman and
Gilman (P = 0.001 for class 2010 versus 2012; P = 0.014 for
class 2011 compared to 2012).
Finally, almost three-quarters (72%) of the students ex-
pressed their overall preferences for small-size, concise books
over lengthy, more complete textbooks.
Despite the importanc e of Internet source s to provide infor ma-
tion on health scie nce s, pri nted textbooks have long been central
to medical curricula and continue to play a valuable role in
medical education. Pharmacology is not an exception, and te-
xtbooks are the main resource for medical students in search of
knowledge, as opposed to information, on drugs. However, the
most widely recommended pharmacology textbooks are volumi-
nous, containing copious information (Achike et al., 2000) that
far exceeds the core knowle dge recommended for undergra duate
medical students (Orme et al., 2002; Rodriguez et al., 2009;
Dornhorst, 1981; Klatt et al., 2011). Many medical students dis-
like this type of textbook, and frequently complain about their
length and complexity.
In the present study, the textbooks by Goodman & Gilman
and Rodriguez et al. were the two most preferred pharmacology
textbooks among second-year medical students for studying
and preparing for their exams. Our finding that Goodman &
Gilman was one of the two most preferred textbooks is not
surprising. Since its first publication in 1941, this textbook has
become accepted as the most important textbook in its class,
and as one of the most complete guides for teaching and learn-
ing pharmacology. However, as the extent of pharmacology
knowledge grows, the content of the textbook increases with
each new edition, continuing to include details pertinent to the
discipline but that may be of limited relevance to undergraduate
medical students.
The high preference among these medical students for Rod-
riguez et al. is also notable. There are many differences be-
tween Goodman & Gilman and Rodriguez et al. For example,
Goodman & Gilman is an accredited pharmacology reference
source that is useful for all types of students and health profes-
sionals interested in pharmacology, whereas Rodriguez et al. is
a small-volume text that is designed to confront the changes
that are taking place in the medical curriculum (Chiu-Yin, 2002;
Faingold et al., 2002), and to limit information overload. Rather
than including a range of issues of basic pharmacology, it focuses
on core pharmacology knowledge, referring only to the general
concepts and principles of the discipline that are important for
medical students. It also includes a careful summary of essential
drug information that all medical students should master before
graduation, which is complemented by a core list of commonly
prescribed drugs consistent with British Pharmacology Society
recommendations (Maxwell et al., 2003).
It can be inferred that Goodman & Gilman was preferred be-
cause of its encyclopaedic c ontent, while the preference for Rod-
riguez et al. probably reflects the pragmatism of some students
who prefer more concrete, medically relevant information. The
marked differences in content between these two textbooks are
particularly c lear in terms of ho w the y dea l with indivi dual to pics
and the entire discipline. For example, Goodman & Gilman as-
signs 115 pages to pharmacokinetics, whereas Rodriguez et al.
assign 30 pages to t he same the me. The 12th edition of Goodman
& Gilman is >1800 pages long, indexes over 1250 generic
drugs (some of them without real clinical use), and weighs over
3.8 kg. In contrast, the 2nd edition of Rodriguez et al. is <400
pages long, indexes <440 chemical entities, and weighs <800 g.
Rodriguez et al. focuses on wha t medic a l stude nt s nee d t o study
and at what depth. This textbook gives priority to 160 repre-
sentative, clinically important classes of drugs (therapeutic
prototypes) that medical students are expected to know in detail,
including the name and drug class, mechanism of action, evi-
dence-based clinical indications, important contraindications,
most frequent and severe adverse reactions, clinically signifi-
cant interactions, and possible substitutes. This textbook fo-
cuses on drugs that are commonly prescribed in primary and
secondary care. Interestingly, 47 of the 100 drugs that are most
commonly used in primary and secondary care settings in the
UK (Baker et al., 2011) are mentioned in Rodriguez et al. Of
the remaining 53, 28 are considered to be complementary drugs
and 25 are not listed in Rodriguez et al. Differences in the
numbers of drugs and the importance given to each drug be-
tween the core list in the UK and the list included in Rodriguez
et al. can be explained by differences in healthcare between
Mexico and Europe (Rodriguez et al., 2009).
We found that between 2010 and 2012, the percentage of
students that preferred Rodriguez et al. increased by 5% while
the percentage of students that preferred Goodman & Gilman
decreased by 8.4%. We also found that other well-known text-
books (Harvey & Champe, Rang et al, and Katzung et al.) were
preferred by fewer students than expected, but the preference
for Katzung et al. increased by 7.5% from 2010 to 2012.
The pharmacology textbooks evaluated in the present study
vary considerably in terms of the amount of information being
presented and th e means of presenting this info rmation. The stu-
dents rated each factor listed in the questionnaire for their pre-
ferred textbook. The wide variations in responses suggest that
students are discerning consumers of textbooks. The usefulness
and the adequacy of content were deemed equally important by
students when choosing a textbook. Factor analysis grouped the
reasons that influenced the preference of students for a given
textbook into 4 clusters: 1) pertinence of pharmacological in-
formation (e.g., the textbook explains the pharmacodynamic
and pharmacokinetic properties of the major drugs in a com-
prehensive manner, and identifies drugs that are commonly
used in general medicine); 2) appropriate information presenta-
tion (e.g., the textbook content is clear and concise, and the
information is smoothly presented and helps to integrate
knowledge); 3) meaningful medical context (e.g., the textbook
encourages integration of pharmacology knowledge with that of
other medical disciplines, and focuses on the more common
diseases); and 4) adequacy of content (e.g., the sequence of
themes facilitates comprehension of the entire discipline, and
the material is well-organized). Cronbach’s α coefficients indi-
cated good internal consistency among the items included in
each of the four factors (0.838, 0.859, 0.788, and 0.776, respec-
tively). Overall, these findings indicate that we developed a
valid and reliable questionnaire.
Intriguingly, the preference for Goodman & Gilman in our
student population decreased between 2010 and 2012, whereas
Rodriguez et al. and Katzung et al. gained popularity during
this time. From a student’s perspective, Goodman & Gilman
has adequate content and pertinent pharmacological informa-
tion but fails to present the information appropriately. Regard-
ing the other textbooks included in our survey, the preference
for Rang et al. decreased slightly, while the preference for
Harvey & Champe or the other textbooks was largely un-
changed over the 3 years.
Finally, most of the student s (72%) reported their overall pref-
erence for concise medical textbooks. This confirms the view of
some authors who think that, in medical education, bulky text-
books are suitable as reference textbooks but not for regular
reading (Achike et al., 2000).
In medicine, students and faculty members rely on textbooks
for guidance and learning. We believe that this educational re-
source should be evaluated first, when trying to improve phar-
macology educat ion in medica l school s. We als o propo se that the
pharmacology textbooks reco mmended to un dergr aduate medical
students are medically oriented and of a manageable and appro-
priate length with respect to the topics covered in the textbook.
To our knowledge, this is the first study to provide compre-
hensive data on the reading preferences of medical students in
relation to pharmacology, and the reasons for preferring a spe-
cific pharmacology textbook. We believe that our results will
assist authors to facilitate pharmacology learning by producing
textbooks that suit different styles of learning (Gurpinar et al.,
2011; Shukr et al., 2013).
Three important limitations of our study must be considered
when interpreting our results. First, our study was conducted at
one medical school in one country. Therefore, the results cannot
be extrapolated to medical students at other medical schools.
Second, the scope of our study was limited in that we only in-
cluded nine of more than two dozen pharmacology wide ly avail-
able textbooks. Three, we sur veyed young medical students with
relatively limited medical knowledge and skills. Thus, our find-
ings need to be confirmed in other studies.
Pharmacology t extbooks vary in terms of the a mount of infor-
mation being presented as well as the means of presenting the
information. Goodman & Gilman, a well-known treatise of
pharmacology, and Rodriguez et al., a small, concise textbook
of pharmacology, were the preferred pharmacology textbooks
among these second-year undergraduate medical students. Other
well-known textbooks were used less frequently than expected.
Medical students have different educational abilities and may
benefit from the availability of different types of textbooks be-
cause it enables them to choose a textbook that fulfils their in-
formation needs and reading skills. As long as students are the
centre of medical education, these results suggest that textbook
authors should carefully consider the views and preferences of
students. The next step is to test whether the use of these text-
books influences the learning and retention of pharmacological
knowledge among medical students.
Competing Interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
The authors thank the students from the Faculty of Medicine
of the National University of Mexico who participated in the
study. In addition, we appreciate the editorial assistance from
Stallard Scientific Editing.
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